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  • Excerpt: How Games Are Made - A Common Misunderstanding

    [02.21.12]
    - Charlie Czerkawski
  •  [In this excerpt from the e-book Breaking Into Video Game Design - A Beginner's Guide, author Charlie Czerkawski details some common -- but incorrect -- assumptions about game development.]

    People who aspire to work in the games industry  - sometimes even people who are already working in the industry - fall into the trap of misunderstanding how games are made. I don't exclude myself here, because I've made the same mistakes myself.

    Several years ago, while I was working at a QA Testing lab, during one of the many lunch-time discussions pertaining to game design, a colleague stated that he imagined it was the artists who ‘usually' came up with the ideas and gameplay for new games, as they were the ones ‘making it happen' visually. This is an understandable point of view, although it seems a little naive when it comes from someone already working in the industry. But he was certainly looking at game creation from the wrong angle, not really understanding how games are made, how they are structured, and the processes by which they are ‘invented.'

    Let's take the game of chess as an example - the board game, rather than any computerised version. How do you imagine it came to be?

    Chess is as old as the hills, but from a design perspective, it would never have been formulated as a game by a sculptor intricately carving out all the wonderfully artistic playing pieces and then hoping that gameplay would somehow take shape. I doubt if anyone would ever think that it could have happened like that. Yet imagining that the artist alone would design a video game is as strange as assuming that the talented sculptor of pieces would have designed the clever, complex and mathematically precise game that is chess.

    If you, today, were to attempt to re-design it, you would probably begin with diagrams on paper, or possibly on screen, then maybe you would make paper ‘placeholder' pieces. Once the game was functioning as a game, even in a fairly rudimentary fashion, you could then start to devise the over-riding theme of conflict and war and create a persona for each of the individual pieces. It is at this point where art - with all its individual skills and talents - would come into play, working closely with those personas, and contributing to them - and a series of sculpted pieces would be created. As ever, teamwork would be the key.

    This is, effectively, how video games are built up too, through a series of iterations.

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